Alan Titchmarsh shares 10 ‘trouble-free’ plants you ‘can’t kill’

Houseplants that are 'impossible to kill'

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Many often forget that plants actually want to grow and that it’s up to gardeners not to get in the way. Of course there are some that are reluctant to thrive. While it’s good to be challenged, sometimes, it’s also essential that there are enough plants in gardens that are “indestructible”, according to gardening pro, Alan Titchmarsh. These are plants that, regardless of the occasional oversight when it comes to watering, pruning or feeding, “will grow in spite of us rather than because of us”.

Speaking to Gardeners’ World, Alan said: “Plants you can’t kill are typically robust in stature and constitution, often labelled as ‘vigorous’, ‘trouble free’ and ‘disease resistant’ in the garden centre. 

“By watering and feeding them, you’ll encourage any plant to thrive, and you’ll be able to see from its general habit when it has got its roots down and is growing well. It’s only once plants are growing strongly that they can be safely left to fend for themselves.”

Here is Alan Titchmarsh’s list of plants you can’t kill

1. Geranium

Geraniums, more commonly known as cranesbill geraniums, are reliable, long-flowering, easy-to-grow plants that flower in a wide variety of colours.

Alan said: “Cranesbill geraniums are copper-bottomed ground-cover plants with bright summer flowers that will cope with many inhospitable situations in sun or shade. They die down in winter but spring up afresh each year.”

2. Epimedium

Epimedium have pretty, heart-shaped evergreen leaves and delicate, nodding flowers. Their spreading habit makes them excellent ground cover plants – grow them under shrubs or trees in a shady spot.

Foot-high mounds of mitre-shaped leaves follow the yellow, pink or white spring flowers. The expert said: “Known as Bishop’s hat, they’re brilliant ground cover for shady spots, where it will spread happily but not problematically.”

3. Euonymus

Euonymus are popular and useful shrubs that are hardy, easy to grow, and can be used as ground cover, grown in pots, trained on supports and planted as a hedge. 

The majority of euonymus are evergreens with attractive glossy leaves in a range of colours and variegations, and these are especially good for winter interest.

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4. Brachyglottis

Brachyglottis is a silver-grey leaved evergreen, sun-loving shrub from New Zealand, almost fully hardy except on wet or poorly drained soils. 

Its leaves appear to sparkle in sunlight and its pretty yellow flowers attract insects. Alan said: “Its bright-yellow daisy flowers carried on the greeny-grey evergreen leaves keep going sporadically into autumn.”

5. Penstemon

Penstemons bear tall spires of foxglove-like flowers on slender stems that are “much tougher than they appear”, noted the expert. 

He said that these are a herbaceous perennial that “should be replaced every two or three year from easy-to-root cuttings”.

6. Astrantia

Astrantias, also known as Hattie’s pincushion or masterwort, are charming perennials with branched heads of neat pincushion flowers, surrounded by a ruff of greenish white bracts in summer.

Alan explained that this plant used to be thought of as a herbaceous filler, but with lots of new cultivars that have deep-crimson flowers or flowers with long petals, it has become “a great choice” for damp soils.

7. Choisya 

Choisya, also known as the Mexican orange blossom, is a handsome evergreen shrub with attractive foliage and scented flowers, which are produced over a long period.

The gardening pro said: “The Mexican orange blossom is a vigorous evergreen shrub that responds well to clipping. I have used it as a replacement for the Christmas box, making a waist-high rolling sea of leaves and scented white blossoms in May.”

8. Bamboo

Alan advised choosing the “clump-forming bamboos” such as those with black or golden yellow stems and “they shouldn’t get out of hand”. The expert added: “Avoid the spreaders that will take over your garden.”

9. Sarcococca 

This plant is more commonly known as the Christmas box as it flowers in winter. Alan explained: “The Christmas box is a compact evergreen shrub with glossy, light reflecting leaves and whiskery white flowers that have a powerful fragrance when they open in winter.”

10. Primroses 

Who would be without these little beauties? Primroses are a cheerful sign of spring. They are one of the first woodland blooms and an important nectar source for butterflies.

According to Alan, primroses love sun or shade and will seed themselves about the garden and “will never become a nuisance”. 

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